News story

New welfare powers coming to the Scottish Parliamet

Today [Thursday 14 July] sees a major milestone in the transfer of new powers from Westminster to Holyrood under the Scotland Act 2016.

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The UK Government will today lay the formal Parliamentary regulations which set out the timetable for the transfer of the first tranche of welfare powers.

The move means that the Scottish Parliament will, for the first time, be able to legislate to tailor the welfare system to reflect local needs, including the ability to create entirely new welfare benefits in areas of devolved responsibility.

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said:

The Scotland Act 2016, which delivered the Smith Commission recommendations in full, makes the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the world.

The transfer of a range of welfare powers is a key milestone in giving the Scottish Parliament the ability, for the first time, to legislate on benefits and create a welfare system tailored to local needs. This includes the ability to create entirely new welfare benefits – a very significant new power, and I look forward to seeing how the Scottish Government will use this.

Crucially, these powers are being transferred while maintaining for people in Scotland the benefits of being part of a United Kingdom. Scotland has two governments, each with different but complementary responsibilities, and it is vital that we continue to work closely together in the national interest.

The regulations being made today set out the a timetable for the transfer to Holyrood of a number of welfare powers, including the ability to:

  • Create new benefits in devolved areas
  • Top up reserved benefits (such Universal Credit, Tax Credits and Child Benefit)
  • Make discretionary payments and assistance
  • Change employment support
  • Make changes to Universal Credit for the costs of rented accommodation
  • Make changes to Universal Credit on the timing of payments and recipients
  • Make discretionary housing payments

The majority of these powers will transfer on 5 September 2016. Discretionary housing payments will transfer on 1 April 2017.

The UK and Scottish governments are working closely on the transfer of welfare powers to ensure a safe and secure transition. This work is being overseen by the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare. The group will meet next in the Autumn, and work is ongoing to discuss the transfer of the remaining welfare powers under the Act (including carers and disability benefits, as well as maternity payments and funeral payments) which will transfer at a later date.

The regulations made today also set 21 August as the date for the transfer of powers under the Act relating to the Office of Communications (Ofcom). Specifically, Scottish Government ministers will be able to appoint one member of the Ofcom board, and there will be a requirement for Scottish Ministers to lay Ofcom’s annual report and accounts before the Scottish Parliament.

The powers set out in today’s regulations come after the transfer of the first tranche of powers under the Act relating to consumer advice, gaming machines, equalities and transport.

Additional new powers (including on tax, welfare, Air Passenger Duty, and the licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction) will be implemented at later dates. For Income Tax rates and thresholds this will be April 2017, and for Air Passenger Duty April 2018. Other dates are to be determined.

Published 14 July 2016